Corriere della Sera, RCS Mediagroup S.p.a.
The sixteen "Visual Data" visualisations are submitted as Images, and in the Supporting Document.
The project is the "Visual Data" column, a full-spread data visualisation published every week within La Lettura, the Sunday cultural supplement within Corriere della Sera, the highest circulation newspaper of Italy. Accurat studio were tasked with revealing and advancing the use of data-visualisation to provide new perspectives in the newspaper-editorial field. The subject of the project can be described as a new form of non-linear storytelling - info-spatial journalism. The sixteen "Visual Data" visualisations are submitted as Images, and in the Supporting Document.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The client brief was to reveal and advance the use of data-visualization to provide new perspectives in the newspaper-editorial field. The context for this was that Information Design is playing an increasingly critical role in everyday journalism. The movement from word and picture to “words within diagrams” is building a new form of truth telling and storytelling—and with it, a new journalistic aesthetic. In this respect info-spatial journalism, as we call it, is not just data visualisation in the pure sense. The goal is not just providing insight into numbers but into social issues or other qualitative aspects. Accurat designers were tasked to assume the role with Corriere della Sera’s editorial office for the creation of new visualisations, setting out to evolve the production and consumption of info-spatial journalism. For the Visual Data column we were given considerable freedom to invent and produce the content; still, the publisher established limitations on background colour (and other colour considerations), fonts (we were limited to two controlled font families), and format.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The intent is based on the need to providing new and engaging content for readers. The leading story has to be catchy since it is published on a full-spread format within the cultural Sunday supplement of the highest circulation Italian newspaper. Having aesthetically “caught” of our audience the presentation must be clear; the clarity does not need to come all at once, however. Accurat's aim is to provide several layers of exploration. This yields our contextual non-linear storytelling where people can get lost in singular elements, minor tales, and “last-mile” textual elements within the greater visualisation. Everything folds within the concept of layering, establishing hierarchies and making these hierarchies clear: this is the case for both the data analysis (the stories we desire to tell), and the visual composition (the main architecture and the aesthetic value we desire to present). In summary, if we consider our collective presentation as composed of the pieces within a tale, with the aim to make a singular “greater-story” built through the layering of sub stories, or story components. The big picture is the shape of the story and this must be seen at a first glance. From this high-level view through the understanding of main patterns and relationships further levels of non-linear explorations may then invite readers to “get lost” within the story(s) and engage at deeper levels.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
“Info-spatial” journalism: the layering process Following is the general sequence of design, the sequence described is parallel to building the layers. The editorial logic follows the design logic, layer by layer. 1. Composing the main architecture: this is the basis that acts as the formalized base through which the main story will be mapped and displayed, upon this one will see the most relevant patterns emerging from the story: the essential “map” that shall conceptually identify where we are. This base is essentially a matrix or pattern that will serve as our organizer. It may be composed of cells, or distances, or other interrelated multiples. 2. Positioning singular elements (essentially dots) within the main framework. This process is also one which will test the effectiveness of the main architecture; the placement of elements reveals or confirms weaknesses and strengths which may lead to modification of the main architecture. 3. Constructing shaped elements of dimensionality, and form (essentially polygons) with quantitative and qualitative parameters and Positioning these within the main architecture. As these elements have form they must also be identified through colors according to opportunities to establish categorisations, thus advancing clarity and relationships that serve to enhance the story. 4. Elucidating internal relationships between elements. These links, directives, and qualifiers serve to give the story a comprehensive texture and correlate dependencies within the story. 5. Labeling and Identifying through the addition of explanatory labels and short texts provides requisite “last mile” clarity throughout the presentation. 6. Supplementing the greater story through the addition “minor or tangental tales” elements. We consider this a very important step to contextualize the phenomena in a wider world. These components link the story to external ideas, other times, or other places. Elements that are rendered here may come from very diverse sources— analysis that is undertaken once we have strongly established the core story. These elements, which may take the form of small images, textual components, graphic symbols, etc., are to be located where they best help to enrich the overall comprehension. They must not distract from the main story. 7. Providing small visual explanations such as a legend or key that assist readers and the general public who may not be familiar with norms of data visualization. These are composed to enlighten (reveal) the layered idea of the visualization, often constructed as miniatures of the layers themselves. The process usually involves simplification of the general architecture (e.g. the x and y axes, base timelines, or map components) as well as minimal explicit shapes, colors, and dimensions of singular elements. These explanations also provide units of measurement for distances and volumes, etc. 8. Fine-tuning and stylizing of elements shapes, colours, and weights to make hierarchies pop out. Highlighting the relevant and visual constructing other several background layers of information should bring information selectively and sequentially revealed, helping readers discover stories by themselves and recognizing the patterns or interrelationships from one element within the story to another them all and the process beyond them.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The project has received positive opinions from general public as well as from the editors, which could sustain our idea to achieve the goal of a formal journalism based information design and info-spatial aesthetic. The work has also received significant appreciation from educators and educational book publishers. Some of the pieces could be worthy of use as synoptic charts for explaining complex systems of information. Although the project makes no claim to having settled any universal information design and information mapping method, it attempts to use a design process within the cultural context of journalism, together with it's editorial constraints (such as topics to be explored and graphic freedom). Within Accurat there is a strong motivation that the blank space of a page needs to be filled with materiality somehow, even space, and it’s because of this idea of materiality that blank space is a part of the composition that also has to be made tangible. The value of this project can be capsulated in this quote by Alberto Cairo, from his last book “the functional art: an introduction to information graphics and visualisation”: “A journalist can borrow tools and techniques from literature, and be inspired by great fiction writing, but she will never allow her stories to become literature. That notion applies to visualization, which is, above all, a functional art. The role of an information architect is to anticipate this process and generate order before people’s brains try to do it on their own.”